Never one to turn down the chance for some exploring en route we stopped at Lichfield with its medieval Gothic cathedral, slightly red-tinged sandstone that is now layered black through age, it is an intimidating, atmospheric sight with storm clouds overhead. Damaged during the Civil War, much of what now stands is Victorian reconstruction work. From the inside you can see where the walls bowed in an attempt to restore the original stone roof that was abandoned in favour of lighter material. There are still some original features however – a thirteenth century wall painting was discovered during the nineteenth century. The Lichfield Gospels, often referred to at the St Chad Gospel, is on display and contains the first known example of written Welsh. It has been digitized to allow visitors to browse without damaging the original.
|YHA Hartington Hall
Our base for the trip was YHA Hartington Hall, a beautiful seventeenth century manor house which has been modernized but maintains some original features. It makes for a great budget choice.
|View from the Roaches
With so many walks to choose from it can be hard to know where to start but we finally settled on a circular route around the Roaches. The first section of the walk was longer than anticipated but once the turn off came the terrain became much more varied (and when the route instructions say it can be muddy they really mean it – it tries to suck your walking boots right off your foot). After an incline leading to some impressive views you descend into woodland to find the striking Lud’s Church, a moss covered cavern with yet more mud to squelch through. Not only an interesting feature on the walk but steeped in history as it is thought to be the Green Chapel in the Middle English tale Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
|Rockhall Cottage camouflaged in the rocks
On leaving the woods you make the final ascent to the Roaches and are rewarded with panoramic views, the hulking rocks almost appearing as guards in the distance. On the descent you pass Rockhall Cottage, an atmospheric building emerging from the rocks and screaming out for some spooky creative writing set around it.
|North Lees Hall
The next day involved a shorter walk. Starting in the village of Hathersage you follow footpaths out of the village and across fields towards Stanage Edge which dominates the skyline. A turn off from a country lane leads to North Lees Hall, thought to be the inspiration for Thornfield Hall in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Owned by the Eyre family at various points throughout its history, there’s even rumours that a ‘madwoman’ was locked up there and later died in a fire, mirroring events from the novel.